Whimsy has no place in my Mother’s life. The fact that it has a very large place in mine is something that she has never come to terms with. She is, above all things, a practical person. For example, ask her what she thinks about birthdays…”Well, it’s just another day, really.”
As you can imagine, this has caused some strain in our relationship at times, but more often just a great gap of understanding – like when I am trying to explain to her what I love about Terry Pratchett, or why I paid good money for a pair of earrings with a clay carrot on one ear and a peapod on the other.
But every spring, when the forsythias are in bloom, I think of something she did about 45 years ago when I was away at college. And that usually leads me to thinking about something she did on my 16th birthday. And that makes me wonder if there was a pocket of impracticality, of whimsy, hidden somewhere deep inside. Let me explain…
One of the first shrubs to burst into bloom here in the
Pacific Northwest is the forsythia. If there is one blooming, you can’t miss it – glorious yellow. Not the loveliest shrub in general and very often pruned into a disaster, but glorious yellow branches that promise spring regardless of the temperature at the moment. Smart folk cut long graceful branches as soon as you can see the bud and with just a day or two sitting in warm water you have brought spring into the house.
Now while the forsythia is coming into bud in
, snow still covers the ground in Washington . So in my freshman year at Montana , when I received an oddly shaped care package from home, I was amazed to find a carefully wrapped bunch of forsythia branches atop the batch of homemade cookies. Two days later my dreary little dorm room had a burst of sunshine that brought tears to my eyes every time I walked into the room. The only other time I was really homesick at school was when I got the measles. Missoula
The second memory is of sitting on the couch in the living room opening my 16th birthday gift from my Mom. Please note, no party, no family gathering, nothing special much except good wishes. Mom prefaced the gift with a sort of mumbled statement about being a woman now and this was something every woman should have. It was a lovely, if inexpensive, set of black lace underwear. I am still shocked when I think of it. I am pretty certain my mother herself never owned a matching set of black lace underwear and I can’t imagine her thinking a 16 year old had any need of such a thing.
I have been eternally grateful for those two lapses of practicality, or whimsy, or whatever you want to call it. I treasure them each spring. Now that I think of it, my birthday is in March, about when the forsythias bloom. Perhaps there is something to that Mad as a March Hare business – for my Mother at least.